The Unquiet Grave of Garcia Lorca

Theatre, Fringe
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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A wealthy Chelsea couple’s discovery of the bones of Federico García Lorca in the back garden of their Granada holiday home is only the first exhumation in this bookish and rather durdling play from the author of 2008 fringe smash ‘Plague Over England’. This story of Spanish poet and playwright Lorca’s betrayal by British military flaccidity and Spanish prudery has all of that earlier play’s rigorous research and cheering indignation, but little of its wit or energy.

From the offices of Anthony Eden, where Franco’s rise to power is debated, to the bars where Lorca agonises over his fickle love for a beautiful young actor, writer Nicholas de Jongh seeks to put Lorca’s downfall in its proper context, to expose the convenient gaps in the common and accepted histories. But if De Jongh’s intention was to put Lorca’s ghost to rest, he has hampered that plan with far too many other visions and phantoms, with dialogue so wistful and action so spectre-ridden that little of substance is allowed to materialise.

Director Hamish MacDougall plays things flat and languid, with long, static conversations breaking only fleetingly into a more dynamic mode. He’s not helped by a terribly uneven cast, though Damien Hasson does have his moments as the tormented poet who hears the fatal bullets ricocheting through history towards him.

Ultimately, De Jongh’s play wears its learning far too heavily, particularly in a tedious final scene that sacrifices drama and pathos on the altar of pernickety annotations and academic showboating. This is serious work, with a strong core of moral indignation at the hypocrisy of the British, but as easy as that is to respect, the result is near-impossible to enjoy.

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